Ftarri / Improvised Music from Japan

A Loose Ensemble

Liner Notes of the Otomo Yoshihide / Park Je Chun / Mi Yeon CD Loose Community

I first heard Park Je Chun's music a few years ago. It was in a small club in Tokyo where he was playing in a duo with the great Korean improvisational music pioneer, sax player Kang Tae Hwan. There's a unique kind of improvisation scene in Seoul, with a very different history from the scene in Tokyo. I've learned a great deal from Kang's playing in particular. At that time, Kang had brought Park with him to Japan. Neither of them uses a chair in performances; both sit cross-legged on the stage. That in itself is unique, but what's even more interesting is that their individual improvisational vocabularies are completely distinct from those used in any of the Western or Japanese improvised music I've ever heard. Kang focuses on changes in harmonic overtones and creates a world on an unhurried time axis. In response to Kang's improvisation, Park--surrounded by his unique percussion set made up of Korean, Asian, and Western European instruments--beats out an original pulse with rich tone colors and harmonic overtones. The music is extremely beautiful and powerful.

After this performance, I got to know Park. We became friends, and we've had several opportunities to play together. Using broken English, fragments of Japanese and Korean, and gestures, we talk about music and about our lives. It's the same on stage: although we both play improvisation, our musical vocabularies are quite different. As in conversation, we can't communicate perfectly--but I've always looked forward to playing with him, and in fact, our collaboration has always been great. We come from very different cultures, histories, languages, and musical careers, and we were raised in different environments. But on stage, even if culturally we don't synchronize completely, we're able to play music together while remaining who we are.

This CD is based on the studio recording of improvisations I did with Park and pianist Mi Yeon (Park's partner) during a visit to Seoul in 2002. I constructed the album in Tokyo by overdubbing part of that recording with improvisation work by Günter Müller, Sachiko M, and Tanaka Yumiko. For the first piece, I further edited the overdubbed material. It would not be an overstatement to say that the six contributing musicians have very different vocabularies, playing methods, and even musical backgrounds, just as Park and I do. A gently formed community made up not of people with a common culture, but of diverse people who find common ground... Because this is music, it may be possible to dream of such an ensemble. This makes me feel something like a faint hope.

Otomo Yoshihide
August 2003

Translation: Cathy Fishman

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